- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2019

NATO defense leaders are expected to put the final touches on an ambitious alliance war strategy for Russia, the first new such battle plan since the height of the Cold War, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Wednesday.

European military chiefs and their U.S. counterparts approved the new strategy last week, with plans to take the war plans to their respective defense ministries for approval in the coming weeks, Gen. Dunford said during a roundtable discussion at the Brookings Institution.

“It is the first NATO military strategy in decades, … It clearly articulates the challenges that confront NATO [and] it provides the framework for the various plans that will be in place if deterrence fails,” he added.

The new strategy was one of several pressing issues debated during the inaugural meeting of NATO’s National Security Advisers council on Tuesday.

The Trump administration, led by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, overhauled Washington’s national security policy with last year’s release of the National Defense Strategy, which put Russia and China as the preeminent threats facing the U.S. and its allies.

News of the new NATO plan comes weeks ahead of a major naval exercise between European allies and the Navy’s re-established 2nd Fleet, which was recommissioned by the Pentagon with the explicit mission of curbing Russian aggression in the waterways of the transatlantic.

The upcoming naval drills, known as the Baltic Operations or BALTOPS, and 2nd Fleet’s leading role sends a clear signal to Russia, and more importantly Washington’s NATO allies, that the U.S. is committed to being a bulwark against Moscow’s bellicose actions in eastern Europe, according to current and former Navy officers.

Despite tensions over Russia and President Trump’s demands for higher defense spending from European allies, “I would argue that NATO, as an alliance, is stronger than it was four years ago,” Gen. Dunford said.

“The first [new] NATO military strategy in decades has been written and it clearly articulates the challenges that confront NATO and provides the framework for the various plans that will be in place, if deterrence fails,” he added.He cited NATO’s adoption of the so-called “30-30-30 plan,” under which alliance members pledge to have 30 ground battalions, 30 warships and 30 fighter and bomber squadrons ready to deploy anywhere within 30 days, as one of many examples of the alliance’s strength.

But relations with Russia remain a long-term challenge for NATO.

“We are still debating within NATO on how to deal with Russia,” Gen. Dunford said. “I think now, it is fair to say, there is a general consensus that Russia poses a threat to the NATO alliance and we need to take steps to … deter, and if deterrence fails, defend the alliance,” he added.

But Gen. Dunford’s talks with Russia’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov have been critical in ensuring deterrence measures with Russia remain intact. The key to maintaining that critical military tie is leaving the pointed political rhetoric from Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the water’s edge, Gen. Dunford said.

“The one thing we have agreed to is … not to politicize our relationship if we want to mitigate the risk of miscalculation,” Gen. Dunford said.

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